Wednesday was our day to spend some time in Grants Pass, stopping at a brew pub we’d visited our last time through in 2015 and checking in with our longtime friend from Los Angeles, Mark. We spent the morning reading and writing and in the early afternoon drove the forty minutes it takes to cover the 29 miles into town.
Our first stop was downtown at a small art gallery for a Betty LaDuke exhibition, Bountiful Harvest, featuring shaped routed wood panel paintings of farm workers in farms, orchards, and vineyards. This style involves layering routed strips of wood on a base board to form the outlines of the subject matter which are then painted upon. It’s bright and striking and is meant to evoke the timelessness of field work, the hard labor involved and the dignity of the workers themselves.
Finished with the exhibit we went in search of the aforementioned pub, the Oregon Pour Authority. When we reached its location though, we found another pub, the Speakeasy Taproom in its place, the former having moved to a new location and in the process of remodeling. We settled in for a beer and engaged in a nice conversation with the owner, who was sitting at the bar finishing off his lunch. He’s a professor at Rogue Community College, the large Junior College in Grants Pass.
After our beers, we walked back towards the art gallery and went next door for lunch at the Bohemian Bar and Bistro, a fairly new establishment. Like many smaller towns, Grants Pass experiences a fairly high turnover in restaurants. Often they are the brainchild of a sole entrepreneur who then finds it hard to survive without a large populace to fill the tables consistently. This is a charming place, spacious with a nicely furnished bar at the back end of the dining room.
I started with a Ninkasi Velocihopter, a brew from a brewery of choice located in Eugene with products available up and down the west coast. Joanna and I split the House Cheddar-Beer Bisque, a rich and creamy soup with a light hand on the cheese and beer and the Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps (lettuce, chicken, teriyaki Sauce”, green onion, garlic, celery, chow mein noodles, rice noodles and peanut sauce). Kathy and Tom had the Margherita Flatbread (with balsamic reduction) and a BLTA (Bacon, tomato, lettuce, avocado, and mayo, on a Brioche bun).
We took our time completing the meal and when done, Kathy and Tom took off for home while we dawdled in the area until we needed to take off to meet up with Mark, at JD’s Sports Bar and Brewery on Highway 199 on the way out of Grants Pass. We stopped in at Don’s Bike Center, a common thing for us to do in any town, to check out the merchandise and I would purchase a nice, and reasonably priced, jersey with the shop’s logo on it.
At the appointed hour we drove back out of town and parked in the lot outside the pub and entered to find Mark sitting at a high top adjacent to the bar. It had been quite some time since we’d last met up and the ensuing years have found us both retired and in pretty happy circumstances. My friendship with him goes back to the mid 1970’s, when I was separated from my first wife Suzanne and open to a host of new relationships.
Mark and his first wife Christine lived a block north of Venice Boulevard on Midvale, a street exactly halfway between Sepulveda and Overland Boulevards. Chris’ son Greg went to a day camp close by, the Teepee Club and the counselors there (Coach Sue, Paula, Michael, and others), many our age, would formed a circle of friendship, with Chris and Mark’s house as ground zero for many years to come.
Chris and Mark relocated to Woodland, Ca in the early 1980’s and eventually went their separate ways; Mark would remarry and follow his parents and brother Scott to Grants Pass, working there as a butcher for a local meat shop until his retirement about the same time I did. There is no better feeling, alright let’s call it what it is, joy, than that moment when you greet a longtime friend after many years apart. Time falls away and your innumerable shared experiences provide the bedrock of a friendship that allows you to ease into what seems to be a conversation just recently interrupted and now resumed. We had a couple of beers apiece, pleasant brews made in-house and after a couple of hours bade Mark farewell until our next visit, making our way back to Kamp Angst, with a brief stop at Ray’s for one more twelve pack of Henry’s.
Our last day, Thursday, would take us out south on 199 to hike a section of trail we’d done our last visit, the Rough and Ready Botanical Wayside. This is level hiking of short duration, taking us out to Rough and Ready Creek, stopping to observe wildflowers opening up to the spring sunshine. We returned to the car and on the way back to Kamp Angst stopped in Cave Junction for our obligatory lunch stop at Taylor’s Country Store, known for their superb house made sausages.
With a small but well thought out selection of draft beers and reasonably priced sausages, it is the perfect lunch stop, just enough to tide you over until dinner later in the evening. While there we picked up four nice looking rib-eye steaks for dinner and meandered back to the house. Our evening meal was simple, the steaks, baked potatoes and green salad with a bottle of Foris Cabernet Sauvignon Tom had put down some years back.
Another trip to Kamp Angst was drawing to an end, days spent hiking, talking, drinking, eating, and sightseeing. This place we are so familiar with, off the two lane country road deep in the Oregon woods feels like you’ve gone to a retreat property, one where ideas are explored, rural life is examined, and in times past, rocks have been hauled from the creek to build stone walls and the well has failed, leading to a near backpacking like experience. But we return time and time again for the escape from city life, the beauty of the location, and most of all the friendship, the strongest lure there is.
Speakeasy Tap Room: http://www.speakeasytaproom.com/
Bohemian Bar and Bistro: https://bohemianbarandbistro.com/
Don’s Bike Center: http://donsbikecenter.com/
JD’s Sports Bar: http://www.jdssportsbarandbrewery.com/
Rough and Ready: http://www.blm.gov/or/resources/recreation/site_info.php?siteid=375
Taylor’s Country Store: http://taylorsausage.com/home